The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower: Improving the airport experience

The Paralympic Games are coming up in Paris in August. The event always shines a bright light on the incredible feats achieved by athletes with disabilities.

Away from the spectacle of elite athleticism and competition, daily challenges persist for those with disabilities. Many people live with a hidden disability that isn’t easily noticeable, and it makes the travel experience challenging and stressful. Airports can be exceptionally daunting due to their size, noise levels, crowds, and hurried atmosphere. One programme, the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, aims to help.

What is the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative?

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower originated in the UK and has rapidly been embraced worldwide as a discreet signal that someone has a non-visible disability and may require additional assistance or patience. The lanyard, adorned with a simple pattern of sunflowers, acts as a subtle but clear indicator to airport staff and fellow travellers that the wearer might need extra support, whether navigating through security lines or requiring more detailed information about flight procedures.

How does it help travellers?

For those with hidden disabilities, the Sunflower lanyard can transform the airport experience from stress-inducing to managable and friendly. Staff trained to recognise these lanyards are prepared to offer additional support, such as more time for processing travel documents, personalised briefing on airport processes, or assistance through crowded areas.

What can business travellers do to help if they see a sunflower lanyard?

Awareness and understanding are the first steps. If you’re a business traveller and notice someone wearing a Sunflower lanyard, simple acts of kindness, such as allowing them extra space in queues or being patient if they take longer at security checks, can make a substantial difference. Simply recognising and respecting the meaning of the lanyard creates a more inclusive and supportive travel environment.

How can travel managers support travellers?

Travel managers play a big role in ensuring that business travel is accessible for employees. Simply informing travellers about programmes like the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower helps. You can serve as a resource to travellers who might benefit from a lanyard and provide awareness to travellers who don’t need one.

Encouraging a company culture that recognises and supports people with disabilities strengthens the travel programme and improves corporate culture and morale.

Global growth of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

While the Sunflower lanyard has seen significant adoption in the UK and Europe, its presence is growing throughout the world. A visit to the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower website will provide you with information about the reach of this programme.

The next area of growth for the Sunflower is seen to be in the APAC region. Notably, Changi Airport in Singapore and air carrier Jetstar, have recognised the importance of this initiative and are training employees on how to support lanyard-wearers.

How to request a lanyard?

Lanyards are available for free or at a minimal cost from participating airports and organisations. You can find detailed information on obtaining a lanyard and learn more about the programme by visiting Hidden Disabilities Sunflower.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard is a powerful tool for empathy and assistance in our global travel community. Let’s carry the spirit of the Paralympics forward, not just in celebrating great achievements but also in supporting practical solutions for everyday challenges faced by those with disabilities that we may or may not be able to see.


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